Bay Area Exploits

Rialta on the street in San Jose

It's amusing to observe the patterns of my anxiety, as correlated with the weather and scenery. Portland's climate generally leaves me feeling depressed and wanting more. Its urban landscape is as near to perfect as an American city can be, but it might edge too far into the category of "major metropolitan area" for me to maintain a consistent semblance of sanity.

Monterey's cool, sunny climate combined with its seemingly lacksidasical seafaring populous made it a damn near perfect place to reset my head. And now, being thrusted back into another major metropolitan area, I'm reminded why I left in the first place.

Every California city is comprised of equal parts slums, picket fences, and ugly car-oriented commercialism. Even Berkeley, a haven for progressivism, is a congested beheamoth of a place. Don't get me wrong: Californian urbanites are generally lovely people. It's just that the car-oriented, sprawling nature of their urban areas propagates a unique brand of California aggression. Everyone here is in a hurry to get somewhere, and when they're done being somewhere, they're in a hurry to get somewhere else. It's as if someone put blinders on their car windshields and they're living oblivious to the fact they live in the most beautiful place on earth. Or it's because one look out their car windshields means another In-N-Out Burger, strip mall, or traffic interchange.

If there were a brand name for this perpetual state of rushedness and instant gratification, it would be dubbed San Jose™. In less than 24 hours, I've witnessed a man in a Lexus blast his horn at a woman walking in a parking lot as if his weekend might be ruined if not for his on-time arrival at the local BevMo!. I've counted the BMW's, the Lexuses (Lexi?), the Mercedes-Benz's, and the sad, balding men who drive them.

If there's one thing I've re-learned in my travels, it's that the most vital ingredient to happiness is what I like to call experiential diversity. Nostalgic thoughts act as natural antidepressants. Marketers convince you that their product or service will make you feel at home or bear resemblance to "the good old days." They're just targeting the same part of the brain stimulated the first night home after a peaceful vacation or the moment two loved ones are reconnected at the airport. What advertising and commercialism does not grant us is sustained diversity in experiences, thoughts, and ideas. If our hunter-gatherer roots aren't indicative enough of humankind's tendency toward exploration and conquest, then the blood-soaked founding of the United States should be. Denying our primal need to explore is to deny our humanity.

Never let the people on television, in your computer, on billboards, or on the radio persuade you their way is the right way. It's a certainty they're trying to take your money, and it's a near certainty that they feel the same longing and entrapment as you do when you listen to them. I've found a new kind of fulfillment, and it comes from within.